Monday, June 26, 2006

It seems the new Iraqi government is considering granting amnesty to insurgents, even those who have killed American troops. The sniper who killed Thomas was probably dead within five minutes since Thomas's friends reacted as soon as they realized what had happened. One more building gone in Mosul. I would not be surprised to find that the number of people affected by this proposal is quite low but I really don't want to think of them as walking free.


I keep returning to the day that Thomas died. It was the week of the Fallujah offensive in November of 2004 but Thomas was Army, not a Marine, and he was in Mosul, a couple of hundred miles north of the major action. Unfortunately, the insurgency moved some of this action north. Policemen deserted their stations and chaos was beginning to overtake the city. Thomas was on a mission that day to restore calm to a particular neighborhood, a mission that was considered successful until he was shot. He was the only American casualty that day in Mosul, the first of four Marylanders though who would die in Iraq over the next four days. (As a state, we have had one week since then that was worse.)

I knew that there had been heavy fighting in Mosul that morning thanks to an NPR report at 1:00. I took a deep breath and thought "No one here yet, everything must be all right." The notification team arrived at 2:45.

As the day wore on, we kept thinking of people we had to tell before the press got hold of Thomas's name. At some point, I posted that he had been killed in combat on a forum of mostly Catholic, mostly women that I had been part of for several years. Their response was amazing and deeply comforting. Those who were local came the next day and sat with us for hours. My dear friend Deborah spent most of the afternoon and the evening and then much of the rest of the next week with us.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The chairs, or the lack of them, kind of haunts me. Two children in our neighborhood have died in automobile accidents in the last several months and both families had people spilling over on to the front porch and the driveway. They seemed to have dozens of folding chairs and the people to fill them. We found some chairs too, but it was cold, being November, and in the end our friends and neighbors preferred to stand in the kitchen and living room. We recently bought new furniture for the living room, but I think that we are still short of places to sit down.


I made Richard tell our extended families. I didn't want my sister to be alone when she heard so he called her husband first. He called his own brother so he could tell their mother in person.

Our phone rang nonstop for hours that Thursday and Friday as more people heard, and then as Thomas's name was released on the evening of the 12th. Our oldest daughter Anna was standing on the porch smoking: at about 8 pm Friday she came inside and said "The press is here. What do we do?" My husband and I had agreed that he and I would not speak to them but Anna was free to do as she wished. Two of the neighbors went out with her on the porch as three local television stations filmed an interview simultaneously, and a print reporter took notes. When we saw the stories later we were so proud of our daughter who told her brother's story with dignity and a few tears as well as many smiles because Thomas had been a funny guy. Ten months later, I saw an interview with the surviving brother of another soldier--the sound had been turned down on the television for some reason but I recognized the look on that man's face and when I turned up the sound I learned that his sister had been a soldier, killed in Iraq.

Today we are waiting for confirmation that two bodies found in Iraq belong to the soldiers who were abducted two days ago. One of the soldiers is named Thomas, the other is Kristian which is also a family name for us. I felt connected enough already--but last night when we learned their names I started crying.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

It's Flag Day. Five years ago today, we had a wonderful celebration at our local elementary school as we opened a time capsule buried in 1976, the Bicentennial year. We handed out red, white and blue pencils. My children, including Thomas who was just finishing his junior year of high school, helped inflate balloons with helium. It was an incredibly sweet moment of Americana. Three months later, that world came to an end. But that day, and for the rest of the summer, we seemed to live in sunlight.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

I see that Slate magazine has story about what it's like to lose your son in Iraq. Maybe I'll try to link to it:

There are interviews with five families--but the interviews are so incomplete. Time passes, it's been 19 months today since my son was killed, and I can still see those men in uniform coming up my walkway. It makes my blood run cold. Flashbacks? I cannot think of that moment without feeling my stomach sink as I realize that I was right all along: he was not coming back to us. I didn't keep them out of the house or deny their mission. I let them in, we sat down, I sent my 12 year old son into another room, and they told me that Thomas had been killed in combat that morning. I told them, I remember clearly, "This is a nightmare." Then my 12 year old returned to the room to ask what was wrong and I told him. We cried. I called my husband at work and told him about Thomas and that he should get someone else to drive him home. I called my daughter at her job and told her the same thing. We called the Red Cross to get them to tell my younger daughter who was in basic training for the Army Reserves at the time. This took longer than expected, partly because Thomas died on a federal holiday and partly because I asked that a chaplain be present when Maria was told.

I remember asking the notification team to call my pastor because I just couldn't figure out how to find the phone number on the front of our church bulletin. I remember calling the people at the store where I was supposed to work that evening--and at that point, I pretty much broke down. I know I called a few people to relay the message because so many of them turned up that evening. From that time onward, the phone rang continually, people turned up with food or comfort. We didn't have enough chairs.

I think this story is going to come out in pieces. It's hard to think about and if I wait until I think I can do it all at once, it will never happen.

Friday, June 09, 2006

I finally decided that starting a blog would be the best way to keep track of my thoughts about the journey we started on unwillingly almost nineteen months ago when our son was killed in combat in Iraq. I'll try to keep from having emotional meltdowns on the internet, I will avoid making comments on political matters, I will not talk about the many other families I have met or otherwise contacted unless they give me permission to do so or ask me to tell their stories. I will comment on the news and I will talk about how we cope from day to day. I do not promise great prose, just whatever I've got that day. Some days are better than others.

About naming this blog: We Remember is a phrase that crops up often when talking about fallen soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors. It seems more positive than simply not forgetting. Remember those we've lost, remember those left behind, remember why we are here.

My technical skills are limited and I don't feel that I have a lot of extra time to acquire new ones so this will probably be pretty simple for a while. The son we lost, Thomas, had a love-hate relationship with the internet which I am really beginning to appreciate. He approached it all with humor though and I'm pretty sure that he'd want me to do the same. It did seem at first that his death would be the end of laughter for us, but that has turned out to not be true at all. If I laugh at myself here occasionally, I hope no one will be offended. And I hope that I will be able to figure out the universe of blogging in a way that will help others understand a little of what we have gone through.